Ever since he was a child growing up in Arkansas, Wendell Fox has wanted to search for diamonds in the Natural State. Now retired and living in Joliet, Montana, the 70-year-old got his chance when he and his wife Jennifer visited Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park for the first time.
On their second day at the park, the couple were surface searching in the East Drain of the diamond search area when Wendell Fox spotted a large brown gem near a marker that indicates where one of the park’s many well-known diamonds, the Strawn-Wagner, was found in 1990.
According to Fox, “I was 80 to 90 percent sure that it was a diamond when I saw it.” Grinning with excitement, he put the gem in a vial and carried it to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center, where staff confirmed that he had found a 2.78-carat diamond. As a memento of this one-of-a-kind experience with his wife, Fox registered the diamond in both of their names.
Park Retail Specialist Amanda Johnson says, “Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s diamond is about the size of an English pea, with an oval shape and a champagne brown color. It contains a few inclusions, like most diamonds from the park, but it also has an unmistakable sparkling, metallic shine.”
Park Interpreter Waymon Cox adds, “It’s no surprise that Mr. Fox found his diamond by surface searching. It has rained a lot at the park this spring, and so far we have registered 11 diamonds that were found on top of the ground in May.”
Park personnel plow the diamond search area periodically to loosen the soil and assist with natural erosion. Diamonds are a bit heavy for their size and lack static electricity, so dirt doesn’t stick to them. When rainfall uncovers larger diamonds near the surface and the sun comes out, they sparkle and are often easier to see.
It is a tradition for visitors to Crater of Diamonds State Park to name their diamonds. Wendell and Jennifer Fox chose to name their gem the Way Out Yonder, as a tribute to their home in Montana.
The Way Out Yonder is the second-largest gem registered at the park so far this year. On March 11, Centerton, Arkansas resident Kalel Langford found a 7.44-carat brown gem that he named Superman’s Diamond. Earlier in May Victoria Brodski, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, found a 2.65-carat brown gem that she dubbed the Michelangelo Diamond.
The Fox’s note that that they plan to keep their diamond as a souvenir and may have it mounted in jewelry. “All in all it was a great experience,” Wendell Fox says of his time at the park, “finding a diamond was just icing on the cake.”
As of this writing, 209 diamonds have been registered at Crater of Diamonds State Park so far in 2017, weighing a total of 52.08 carats. Seven diamonds registered this year have weighed at least one carat each.
Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The three most common colors found at Crater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow, in that order.
In total, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at the Crater of Diamonds since the first diamonds were found here in 1906 by John Huddleston, a farmer who owned the land long before it became an Arkansas State Park in 1972.
The largest diamond ever discovered in the United States was unearthed here in 1924 during an early mining operation. Named the Uncle Sam, this white diamond with a pink cast weighed 40.23 carats.
Other notable diamonds found by visitors to the state park include the Amarillo Starlight, a 16.37-carat white diamond discovered in 1975, which ranks as the largest diamond ever found by a park visitor.
The second-largest find by a visitor is the Star of Shreveport, an 8.82-carat white gem unearthed in 1981. In 2011, a visitor from Colorado found an 8.66-carat white gem named the Illusion Diamond, which is the third-largest gem found at the park.
In June 2015, another visitor from Colorado discovered an 8.52-carat white diamond named the Esperanza, the fifth-largest diamond found by a visitor. In September 2015, celebrated diamond cutter Mike Botha cut the Esperanza into a 4.6-carat triolette shape during a public event in North Little Rock. The diamond was later graded colorless and internally flawless by the American Gem Society and valued at $500,000.
Another notable diamond from the Crater of Diamonds is the 1.09-carat D-flawless Strawn-Wagner Diamond. Discovered in 1990 by park visitor Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro, this white gem weighed 3.03 carats in the rough before being cut to perfection in 1997 by the renowned diamond firm Lazare Kaplan International of New York. The gem was certified as perfect in the laboratory of the American Gem Society. It is on display in a special exhibit in the Crater of Diamonds State Park visitor center.
An additional gem from the Crater is the flawless 4.25-carat Kahn Canary diamond that was discovered at the park in 1977. This uncut, triangular-shape gem has been on exhibit at many cities around the U.S. and overseas. It was featured in an illustrious jewelry exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1997 that included precious stones from throughout the world including the Kremlin collection, the Vatican, Cartier, and Christies. In late 1997, the Kahn Canary was featured in another prestigious exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York entitled “The Nature of Diamonds.” Former First Lady Hillary Clinton borrowed the Kahn Canary from its owner, Stan Kahn of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and wore it in a special, Arkansas-inspired ring setting designed by Henry Dunay of New York as a special way to represent Arkansas’s diamond site at the galas celebrating both of Bill Clinton’s presidential inaugurals.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is located on Arkansas Highway 301 in Murfreesboro. It is one of 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.